My Cretan culinary odyssey happened at Abaton Island Resort Spa, just 30 minutes from the capital of Heraklion. It’s a gorgeous, 5- star getaway, set close to the water’s edge with endless views of big skies and an indigo sea for all 152 of its rooms, suites and villas.
Crete, the largest of the Greek islands with its ancient ruins, numerous beaches and year round sunshine is totes our idea of the perfect summer getaway. We’re ok with spending lazy days beach-side topping up our tans and Insta feeds. But, as I recently discovered, rays and relaxation is not all that Crete has to offer. It’s also the ultimate foodie destination. Yes, Cretan cuisine is a serious thing. Turns out it’s the gastronomical gem on the Aegean coastline that we should all be flocking to.
My initiation into Cretan cuisine began as soon as I arrived, indulging in the most mouth-watering beef meatballs served with sour cracked wheat, spearmint and smoked paprika emulsion. Accompanying this was sautéed wild mushrooms with wine, fresh thyme and grilled goats cheese. I could just about make room for the Cretan stuffed pasta – a simple yet sophisticated ravioli filled with mushrooms and deliciously flavoured with rosemary. Then there was the cod marinated with rosemary, served on chickpea rise. It was all a stunning showcase of locally sourced, high quality ingredients and they had me almost clapping with delight, it was that good.
Stuffed to the gills, I practically rolled into my stunning deluxe suite with its crisp, white, minimalist deco and natural earthy tones to get some much needed shut-eye. In the morning, I discovered – to my utter delight – that the sliding doors of my luxury haven opened up to reveal not just a private pool but a blast of cerulean sky and the rhythmic lap of the sea against the craggy rocks.
Breakfast alone makes the trip to this chic luxury resort worthwhile. You could stay for a week and still not try everything: yoghurt cake, freshly baked feta parcel, orange cake, Cretan yogurt with honey and nuts and so much more. All served in the expansive and bright dining room with 360 views of the surrounding coastline and a terrace.
After the coma-inducing breakfast, a trip to see the local town beckoned. Small and compact, it has a pretty promenade lined with bars, restaurants and shops including a mix of luxury boutiques, stores selling holiday essentials and a smattering of outlets selling locally produced accessories. A mere 15 minutes away from the resort, the walk about town was just perfect and I certainly wasn’t complaining about the breathtaking views of the kingfisher blue which can be seen from all the restaurants that line the promenade.
A Grecian summer break would not be complete without cocktails and I needed no encouraging to take selfies atop the Zin Ivy League terrace with its cliff-top pool and soft-focus sunsets, whilst sipping the tasty signature cocktails and totes feeling like an A- lister. A life I could so get used to.
And I most certainly did get used to it. I tucked into succulent beef consommé, and demolished a pork steak with smashed potatoes, truffle oil, and wasabi peas at the Wow steak house.
A seafood extravaganza of seabream baked in a thick layer of sea salt and slow cooked lobster with spaghetti with tomato, shell fish broth and aged brandy was the perfect meal in perfect surroundings at the Bony Fish restaurant. I smiled and slurped my way through countless desserts: panna cotta with passion fruit and mango kiwi, crème brulee with homemade mint ice cream and figs.
I watched the dusk bleed into the horizon from the newly opened Buddha Bar where locally foraged and fished ingredients are given an exotic twist: Ahi fresh tuna pizza, spicy tacos, jalapeno salmon and grilled vegetables. Seafood is plucked straight from the sea in Heraklion, and ingredients are locally sourced. Crete takes its food culture very seriously.
My Cretan getaway was an unexpected and pleasant surprise. With its laid back vibe, luminous sea and sensational food, it was just the right balance of low-key luxury and unspoiled authenticity. I for one, will certainly be back for my Greek odyssey part two.